10 Fun Photo Editing Techniques

Quite a ways back, I think I did some form of post about just editing photos. Well, I'm back with a similar one, but this time, I've got neater edits, better effects, and more styles. Best of all, I'm going to let you vote on which one you'd like to learn, and I'll post a tutorial on it!

The photos I'm using are mostly ones I've used in previous blog posts or posted on Twitter and/or Facebook. They're all good quality, so you'll definitely want to click to enlarge theme.

Basic Vignette

Difficulty: 2 // Elements: Brush work // The first photo is one of me questing in Azteca. No color changes here - it actually did look that way in-game! The only thing I've added is what's called a vignette, though it's more square than a traditional one. That's simply a little bit of black around the edges. That works specifically well with my blog because it contrasts the white.

Be careful, though, I've seen a lot of ugly vignettes that are overdone! How dark it needs to be will depend on the mood and previous coloring of the photo. While you do have to be cautious, these can turn a normal photo into a more professional looking one. And they're great for photos that already look good.

Intense Lighting - Highlights

Difficulty: 4 // Elements: Brush work, Lighting knowledge // I actually just discovered this little trick by playing around in a free photo-editing program called GIMP, which is what I'll be using to show you how to do your photo edits. I started taking lighter parts of the picture and using a white brush with fuzzy edges to add to specific areas.

I added a sort of vignette to the edges of this one as well. You'll quickly learn that these effects build on each other. This remains to be one of my favorite edits.

Intense Lighting - Shadows

Difficulty: 2 // Elements: Brush work // Instead of highlighting things, some photos are more appropriately made to look darker. I normally use the burn tool to do this. This specific image is an abandoned abbey in Avalon in Wizard101, where you fight a couple of ghosts. Throw in the fact that I'm casting a Death spell on my Necromancer, and there's no better reason to bring out the shadows. This one also has the vignette like the first.

Selective Focus

Difficulty: 6 // Elements: Brush work, Blur, Optional rendering, Optional layer knowledge // One of the things that make real life images so stunning is the ability to use selective focus with a camera. Obviously, our in-game eyes don't distinguish those different levels of viewing, so if you want the look, you've got to manually make it.

This was right after I got a new Pirate101 outfit, and just had to take a photo. Or make a photo, rather. Notice that the background is blurry and also includes the vignette. This technique can be difficult if the whole body is present because many don't realize that a certain depth in the photo is focused, not just the character.

Selective Desaturation - Painted Color

Difficulty: 4 // Elements: Brush work, Layer knowledge, Basic color manipulation // Things start to get fun here. Don't let that complex name fool you, it just means that we take part of an image, and remove the color. In this instance, it looks like we've painted on the color. You've also got the vignette hiding in the back.

Pair this with selective focus or other edits for a very high-quality photo.

Selective Desaturation - Erased Color

Difficulty: 4 // Elements: Brush work, Layer knowledge, Basic color manipulation // Making it look like you're erasing color versus painting it on uses just about the same tactics as above, but with a couple of twists. This image was one that I used sometime around St. Patrick's Day, and I gave it a green hue where the color was.

Again, you can pair this with other elements for a nice photo, or illustration, rather, or let it stand on its own.

Image Combination and Fading

Difficulty: 7 // Elements: Brush work, Layer knowledge, Eraser use // Combining and fading images might seem simple, but it's really very tough, and something that I still haven't mastered. You have to know how to properly layer everything and erase only parts you don't want to avoid having to individually cut everything out.

Then, you can make it more complicated and start adding in images with different color edits and put text on top. That allows you to worry about contrast and placement alongside everything else. My Wizards vs. Pirates image is a good example.

Lomographic Effect

Difficulty: 8 // Elements: Brush work, Layer knowledge, Eraser use, Blur, Advanced color manipulation // This is a newer effect that a lot of automatic image effect services provide, but it can be done manually for your photos and be adjusted to you liking. You first saw it in my recent Test Realm update post, where I showed me, above the people crowding Diego after the Warlord Gear was released.

If you're wanting to learn how to do this one, don't let all of the elements involved scare you, just know that it takes some more time. Some people like the effect and others prefer something different. I personally like it on the right photo. I think dueling circles would work lovely.

This is great for a photo with a center of attention in a busy environment, or just to change up a simple portrait.

Rayleigh Scattering

Difficulty: 9 // Elements: Brush work, Layer knowledge, Blur, Rendering, Basic color manipulation, Strong depth perception, Visual knowledge // What is perhaps one of my favorite effects is also one of the toughest. Just about everything comes into play here, but makes for a stunning image when you're finished. It turns out more like what a real-life photograph would look like.

This is an outfit on mine on the Test Realm in Wizard101. I liked it so much that I had to do some sort of illustration, and I sort of improved, but it turned out great. You'll definitely want to look at this one up close.

Specialty Edits

Difficulty: Varies // Elements: Varies // Sometimes, what you require just isn't covered by an effect. For example, when spying on Community Manager Extraordinaire Emy Anemsalok I used a simple, homemade camera effect, which just involved a couple of layers, some text, and desaturation.

However, this category is really here for you to include any other editing types that you'd like to learn and that I can do my best to explain or post about in addition to the above categories listed. 


Difficulty: 10 // Elements: Taking the time to leave a well thought-out comment // Now things are up to you - vote on which technique you'd like to see me explain by leaving a comment below. Remember, in addition to your vote, you may want to request assistance with something that I haven't listed. Just let me know!

Thanks for reading, and see you in the Spiral!


  1. The image combination and fading will be what I have to go with.

  2. Vignette (I have no idea what that means other than black fuzzy edges) or intense lighting, please. I'm no master of photo editing, and I think these help make your photos stand apart, Swordroll.

    I would appreciate it if you made a post on any of those topics, I am a big fan of your editing.

    1. (This is from the same person)

      I like all of the effects; they add a really great layered feel! I like the erased/painted color and the selective focusing with the layers a lot, too.

  3. Selective focusing

  4. I'd like to learn Selective Focus please :)

    Thanks for doing this Swordroll!

  5. oops. I meant Intense Lighting- shadows, but selective focus is a close second ^-^

  6. Personally, I'd love to learn Rayleigh Scattering. It looks awesome! :)


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